The US Air Force sought a full $1.35 billion to continue research and development efforts for the B-21, formerly known as the Long Range Strike Bomber. But to no avail: the US Congress’ omnibus spending bill, worth almost $1.2 trillion, slashed funding for the B-21 program down to $1.33 billion, while creating new measures intended to prevent program costs from spiraling out of control.
This may ring a bell with those who have followed the living “scandal and tragedy” that is the F-35 program; the cost growth of the USS Gerald Ford, whose final price amounts to two times North Korea’s annual military budget; and the ultra-macho King Stallion helicopter program, which costs more per unit than an F-35A.
The extra measures include labelling the B-21 program a “congressional special interest item,” which gives lawmakers greater authority over appropriating funds for the bomber’s development. Further, the Defense Department inspector general has been tasked with conducting a review of the program.
The US has refused to disclose the total contract value for the B-21, conveniently placing it under “the all-menacing specter of security,” FoxTrot Alpha reported. “I don’t want to give our enemies information by which they can figure out” the materials and size of the plane,” said Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, defending the program’s secrecy.
“If we don’t know what it costs, there’s nothing stopping it from becoming an expensive mess,” the FoxTrot Alpha report noted.
The Pentagon estimates that the per-unit cost will tally about $550 million, according to Defense News.